I was born in LA. My mom was a prostitute and a heroine addict. My dad was an illegal Mexican immigrant. They were both a part of my life until I was 3 years old.
At that time, the State came in and investigated our home and found it unfit for me to live in. So I became a ward of the State and was in many different foster homes. I will never forget my first foster home. I was locked in a garage with no love or guidance from this family. I remember eating the dog food that they kept in the garage.
From there I do not remember all the homes in which I was placed. I suffered quite a lot of various kinds of sexual abuse in these homes in my early years. Finally at the age of 5, I was placed in a Boy’s Home where I experienced trauma from constantly getting beaten up by the other boys. I seemed to be an easy target. I learned that if I were going to survive, I had to stand up for myself and learn to fight…which I did! I became a bad little kid. I soon learned to steal from stores and rob people’s homes for anything valuable that I could turn into cash. I really didn’t care. I was constantly getting into fights.
Finally at the age of 12, I was caught breaking into a home and was placed in juvenile hall. This began my career of delinquency. From that point, I was in and out of juvenile hall until I was 18. I was angry! I hated the world and everyone in it. I was jealous of everyone that had a mom and dad. Down deep inside, I felt unloved, unworthy, and un-cared for.
In 1998, at the age of 18, I was no longer a ward of the state and became homeless. I will never forget my first day when I came to SF. I immediately became arrested for shoplifting. A week later, a friend introduced me to shooting crystal methamphetamine into my veins. I became immediately addicted, and from that moment on, I was hooked.
I was in and out of jail due to stealing everything I could get my hands on to support my habit. This went on for 8 years. In the middle of that, I met some friends at Youth With a Mission. They would come up to me and give me hot chocolate during their late night outreaches on the streets. For the first time ever, I felt like somebody cared for me.
This grabbed my heart. My friends began talking to me about Cityteam and the recovery program. And one day I enrolled on the Cityteam program. But I wasn’t ready and left a few months later.
My crazy life of stealing and drug use continued and my life became even more devastated. Finally I ended up in jail again for 8 months. When I was released on February 11, 2006, I went right back to using drugs. I heard God’s voice for the very first time, asking me if I really wanted to do this. I said NO. I hated that my life was leading me to a place that I would never have my own family.
In March 21, 2006 I again entered the Cityteam program. This time it was different. I was serious! For the first time, I really felt God’s care for me. The Learning Center, the Scripture studies, the AA meetings, the relationships with everyone in the Cityteam family – this was what I needed. It was like I found the answer to my soul’s thirst.
And that happened when I invited Jesus Christ into my life. I began to change. Healing happened inside of me. I learned that God was my defender – I no longer had to defend myself and fight my own battles. He would fight them for me. That was a huge discovery.
Another huge transforming process of my life was to realize that I had a Dad who dearly loves me – God, my Heavenly Father. I learned to trust His passion for me and His plans and purposes for me.
Upon Graduating from the Cityteam Program in December 2007, I immediately went to Minnesota to enroll in the Youth With A Mission’s Discipleship Training School. After that, I was accepted to be on staff at the San Francisco location.
It has been my joy to spend my life over this last year working with those who are struggling with the same issues I once knew. We call them the homeless – but they are people with hearts looking for hope and opportunity. I have the privilege of sharing my story.
Youth With A Mission also hosts teams of youth from all around the country to come to SF and become involved in caring for people in the city. I get to lead them in worship and praise. It is a blessing to see these kids worshiping God.
The family God has given me gets bigger and more wonderful all the time!
*Update: A church family that had known Jose at YWAM in SF invited him to move to Angel’s Camp, CA where their church is located and asked him to be the worship leader. They helped him find employment where he has been trained as a plumber, and they helped him to find affordable housing. He and Cheryl (part of the church family) fell in love and were married in May 2013. Cheryl has two children, and Jose is enjoying his role as step-father. He and Cheryl speak passionately of their desire to follow Jesus and His plan for their lives!